LETTER: Individuals who are struggling with their symptoms deserve compassion, encouragement and support.

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Dear Editor,

Community Reach Center is proud to serve as a community resource for information regarding mental illness and treatment. It is from that vantage point that we submit this letter. It relates to the notion of a link between acts of violence and mental illness.
    It is estimated that about 20 percent of children, adolescents and adults experience a mental illness each year. In other words, mental health issues are extremely common. It’s also important to note that certain mental health conditions are more prevalent than others. For example, about 19 percent of Americans have some type of anxiety disorder, and nearly 8 percent experience depression. Conversely, only about 2.8 percent have bipolar disorder, and less than 1 percent of Americans are diagnosed with schizophrenia.
    A significant amount of research has been done regarding the potential correlation between mental illness and acts of violence. Overwhelming, evidence indicates that there is no overarching correlation. The fact is that most individuals living with a mental health challenge learn to manage their symptoms and live independent, law-abiding, productive and resilient lives. It’s important to understand that periodic non-compliance with treatment is actually part of the symptomatology of certain mental health conditions. However, with proper supports and resources, most return to treatment and soon learn to manage their illness successfully. Just as no two people experience diabetes in the same way, not everyone experiences mental illness the same. 
    As a provider of health and wellness services, we encourage people to seek out reputable sources for evidence-based information. Widely broadcast misinformation about mental illness leads people to develop fearful attitudes about individuals living with these illnesses. It is also a contributing factor to why millions of Americans suffer in silence and avoid seeking treatment altogether. 
    There are a number of organizations providing accurate, evidence-based information about mental healthcare. For starters, you can take a mental health first aid course. More than 20,000 Coloradoans have become certified.  It is an international evidence-based public education course that covers symptoms and behaviors associated with a variety of mental health conditions. Additionally, it teaches a five-step action plan that helps you provide aid to someone experiencing a crisis. Think of it as CPR for psychological crises. Visit the Mental Health First Aid Colorado website to find a class that fits your schedule.  
    Also, The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is an excellent resource for accurate information about mental health issues, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website is a highly regarded resource for issues related to alcohol and drug abuse.
    As for resources, the Colorado Crisis Services website hosts information about mental health crisis resources provided at all times throughout Colorado, and can be reached at 1-844-493-TALK (8255).  
    If a loved one is struggling with a serious mental illness and you’re looking for a supportive community who understands those challenges, contact the Colorado chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to find a NAMI group in your area. Community Reach Center hosts monthly NAMI of Adams County (A-NAMI) meetings.  You don’t have to be a client of Community Reach to attend the A-NAMI meetings.
    Lastly, visit Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council’s website to locate a mental health provider nearest you.
    Mental health is health. Mental illnesses are treatable illnesses. We believe that individuals who are struggling with their symptoms deserve compassion, encouragement and support.

Rick Doucet, CEO of Community Reach Center